Star Trek Beyond

I’ve been much preoccupied of late with vicarious job hunting: with the problems presented by the dreaded interview, when the art of communication (that is, the ability to waffle at will) eludes you, within an entirely unnatural and highly stressful situation; with dastardly online applications and tortuous 250 word competency statements; with despicable online tests; with the contemplation of stunningly original answers to conveyer belt HR questions – that go something like this:  ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’   ‘Tell me about yourself,’  ‘why do you want to work at X?’   And, with it all, the realisation that most middle-aged interviewers are so taken with the sound of their own voice that the young interviewee barely gets a word in edgewise; and that the final verdict tends to be that they don’t have the experience required for the job, which was advertised as ‘entry level’, no experience required, training included.

But society runs on the wheels of commerce and you’ve got to get a job, and not just any job.  It’s got to be fulfilling and rewarding and give you lots of that elusive quality known as ‘job satisfaction.’   Unfortunately those jobs are the hardest to get, and what if you land that dream job…….say as a starship Captain……. and a couple of years down the line find yourself thinking: ‘this isn’t what I signed up for’ or, more existentially:  ‘is this it?’

Last night I went to see the new Star Trek movie with the friend, who forgot to book seats, so we found ourselves sitting right at the front on the far left side – not conducive to cinema going at all.  I slumped in my seat, balls of Kleenex tissue in the ears as stop-gap protection against the onslaught of Dolby surround sound, while the friend consumed an industrial sized tub of popcorn.  My head was full of job searching, the thorny issue of job satisfaction (and an incessant crunching sound as the friend shovelled down the popcorn.)  So, imagine the sense of déjà vu I felt upon finding that Captain James T Kirk was similarly preoccupied.

Kirk was suffering from a strange ennui regarding his career in outer space.  Whizzing about at warp speed had lost its appeal, when there appeared to be a sort of aimless quality to hanging about in an infinite black void.  Kirk was feeling that things had become a bit ‘episodic’  (the first sign that this Simon Pegg/Doug Jung script was going for the Star Trekkian, in-joke, funny bone.)   Our hero was on the point of quitting, to take some kind of high and mighty poncey desk job – Kirk behind a futuristic laptop, pushing the 24th century’s equivalent of paper – that’s how bad things had got.  Caught in the doldrums, Kirk morosely swigged down whisky, filched from Chekov’s locker by good old Bones, and contemplated his dad’s early demise and his own mortality, in a voice that sounded alarmlingly like Shatner’s – Chris Pine has got those inflections and pauses down to a tee.  Something big, bad and very, very loud needed to happen, and pretty damn quick, to keep Kirk from the office-based dark side.

And that’s Star Trek Beyond in a nutshell – BIG, BAD AND VERY VERY LOUD.  So loud and so full of intensely flashing blue lights that I slumped further down in my seat, in an attempt to hide from the visual and auditory onslaught, thinking madly: ‘this is going to bring on a migraine aura, this is going to make me deaf, this is giving me vertigo – why didn’t Kirk just go with the desk job?’

But, like Kirk and the gang, I persevered, through an insanely madcap experience, and came out the other side victorious and with a sudden urge to make whooping noises, along with the rest of the USS Franklin’s crew.

I did have great difficulty keeping up with the plot line. The CGI mayhem bewildered and confused.  Justin Lin, the Director (he of The Fast and Furious fame, which I’ve never seen – nor had I previously heard of Mr Lin) applied what I am assuming is a signature fast and furious directing style.  Hence, shortly after Kirk blathers on about his routine, boring existence in the space-time continuum, we’re  suddenly alerted to a distress call from a woman with a sea shell for a head (never trust a crustaceous alien) followed directly by the attack of the killer bees.  A gigantic swarm of space ships, swooping and diving as one, like the cloud of bees currently all over the lavender bush in my garden, or like those flocks of synchronised birds you sometimes see on an evening.  And, from then on in, the pace and CGI stunning antics never let up.  ‘Oh, please, please, can we just stop for a breather,’ I found myself begging the invisible Mr Lin.  ‘I mean, what just happened there?’  ‘Who the hell is that?’   ‘What’s going on behind that rock?’  ‘Could we not have been provided with explanatory notes on the script?’

But no, the carnage continued as the killer bees destroyed the USS Enterprise, bit by bit, until all that was left was that round disc thing; Sci-Fi’s most celebrated flying saucer.   Chris Pine’s stunning features, reflected in a space pod window, conveyed our sense of collective loss when the Enterprise finally bit the dust on a class M planet far below.

Surviving crew members were imprisoned on this planet, by evil-alien-in-residence Krall (Idris Elba, unrecognisable as a human sized, walking dinosaur, who happens to speak English – a significant twisty plot point.)   Our key crew stalwarts, however, managed to remain free and ran around the usefully Earth-like planet, surviving near death experiences with comic ease and exchanging Simon Pegg-like jollities, based heavily on the relationships seen in the original Star Trek series, along with 1960’s replica costumes and hairstyles – took me right back it did.  And, actually, the Pegg/Jung old style Spock/Bones banter, and the lingering, fraught with unspoken meaning, I’m secretly in love with you (platonically of course) glances between Kirk and Spock, proved just how good the writing on the originally panned series had been.  Leonard Nimoy’s death was acknowledged, as Spock learned that Ambassador Spock had died.  I don’t quite get this.  Old Spock has died and yet young Spock is still alive?  Is this part of the multiple universe theory?  Are there Spocks all over the place?  Why doesn’t everybody have a clone?  Do I care enough to read expert nerdy explanations via fan sites?  (No, I don’t.)

The scene containing the much talked about outing of Sulu as gay was so brief that, had you blinked, you’d probably have missed it; which was exactly the right way to handle it – nothing to see here, just move on.

The visual effects guys, yet again, were the unsung heroes during the 2hr 2 minutes length of this film.  Maybe not so unsung if, like me, you tend to sit through the entirety of the credits, feeling you owe the army of digital artists your time and appreciation.  Or, I would have paid homage to almighty CGI had the friend not scampered from the building as soon as the film finished.

‘What did you think,’ asked the friend, outside, beneath a startlingly clear night sky.  ‘Big, bad and very, very loud,’ I said, or words to that effect.  ‘I felt sick when the camera kept spinning around,’ the friend said.  ‘I thought I’d have a seizure from all those flashing lights,’ I said.  ‘The kid who played Chekov died,’ I continued. ‘Which one was that,’ the friend replied.  ‘Chekov, the young Russian, his car rolled down a hill and crushed him.’  ‘How awful,’ said the friend, as we tried to find her car, having no memory of where she’d parked it – a couple of hours spent in intense space-based combat will do that to a person.


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